Everything we do as parents affects the way our children feel, and we cannot always predict how they might react to our actions. For example, when I tell any of our three daughters I love them more than anything, they happily reply that they love us more than anything.
However, when I tell our son (he’s almost 9) that I love him more than anything, he is offended. “What about God? Don’t you love God more than anything? And what about Daddy? Shouldn’t you love daddy more than anything?” and I’m perpetually baffled.
A lengthy, yes, I love God more than anything and you and daddy and your sisters more than everything, explanation follows, but whatever phase this is that he’s going through is interesting. Just when you think you have your parenting style figured out, a child throws you for a loop.
My point is that you cannot predict how your actions will affect your child in most cases (point made above). Kids are weird, and I swear they are programmed to change their minds about things right at the moment parents finally feel like they’ve gotten it right.
I mean, come on. What kid doesn’t want to hear they’re loved more than anything? Our almost 12-year-old loves it, and she follows it up with a wink and quiet “but you love the most-most, I know,” while our son acts as if we just told him we kidnapped him from the hospital as an infant when we tell him we love him most.
Weird a** kids, I tell you. I can also tell you this; the parenting style called assertion parenting is one we all need to familiarize ourselves with – and not always in a good way.
The Four Primary Styles of Parenting
Before we get into the concept of assertion parenting, I want to be sure you’re familiar with the four primary styles of parenting. I’ve discussed them at length before, but here they are in case you missed those articles. The four primary styles of parenting are:
Each of these parenting styles is complemented – or accompanied might be a better choice of phrases – by additional influences. These influences include the following:
– A Parent’s Degree of Warmth
– A Parent’s Method of Control
These are important phrases to remember as we move on with the different parenting styles and how each one can be manipulated.
Understanding Permissive Parenting
Permissive parenting is a method of parenting that involves pretty much what it sounds like – letting your kids do whatever. This method of parenting can be loosely defined as a parent who gives their children control of their own lives.
Permissive parents don’t make or enforce rules, and they are often entirely too indulgent. On the flip side, they are exceptionally loving, always thinking about how to make their kids happy, and they are certainly there for their children as supporters and people who love them.
Understanding Neglectful Parenting
The cut and dried definition of a neglectful parenting is someone who provides the basics necessities for their kids but little else. It’s also commonly referred to as uninvolved parenting. The child of a neglectful/uninvolved parent has clothes to wear, food on the table, a roof over their head, and they go to school and do their work.
However, their parents are largely uninvolved in their lives and leave pretty much everything up to their kids. The neglectful parent has no problem with anything their child is doing so long as it does not interrupt or affect the parent’s life.
Understanding Authoritarian Parenting
Authoritarian parents are the Fidel Castros of parenting. They are dictators. Kids get no say. Everything is black and white. What mom and dad say is the law, and there is no excuse for not following mom and dad’s word.
Authoritarian parents are strict, they enforce rules to a fault, and they don’t give their kids any leeway. What this means is that an authoritarian parent is going to make a rule, but it’s unimportant that the children understand why the rules are in place. They are expected to blindly follow the authoritarian parent without question.
Understanding Authoritative Parenting
An authoritative parent is a mixture of the neglectful, authoritarian, and permissive parent. The authoritative parent provides for their child like a neglectful parent does – they have clothes, food, shelter, and they go to school and always show up where they need to be.
Unlike a neglectful parent, however, the authoritative parent is involved in their child’s life. The authoritative parent loves their child and is there for them like the permissive parent, but the authoritative parent sets rules and boundaries like the authoritarian parent.
Unlike the authoritarian parent, however, the authoritative parent wants their kids to know why they set rules and boundaries, why they are important, and why the kids should follow them. Essentially, the authoritative parenting method is the best one. It’s firm but loving, and it’s fun but also serious.
Understanding Degree of Warmth
Parenting warmth is exceptionally important in child-rearing. If you are not a warm parent, your child misses out on so many important factors. A parent who is warm is supportive, shows praise, and shows affection for their child.
A parent who doesn’t show warmth does not show their support – even if they feel supportive of their child – nor do they show praise or affection. Parents who don’t show warmth should not automatically be defined as someone who doesn’t support, praise, or feel affection – they merely don’t show it (though some may not feel any of the above).
Understanding Method of Control
Control is such an ugly word when it pertains to relationships, is it not? Who wants to control any other person, honestly? I’d like to say no one, but I’ve met a few people in my life to enjoy exerting their control over other people.
It’s highly unattractive. However, here is where power assertion comes into play. It’s a method of control, along with love withdrawal and induction. Essentially, power assertion is a measure of control some parents use to keep their kids in check where they want them.
What is Power Assertion Parenting?
Power assertion is defined with physicality. Parents who use power assertion in their lives are the parents who spank, yell, or ground their children. On the flip side, love withdrawal is the act of withholding love and affection from a child when you are unhappy with their actions.
Induction is the act of disciplining your child when they need it, but also explaining to them why it’s important that they do or do not behave a certain way, follow a rule, etc. Induction is, essentially, the preferred method of control used by parents because it’s a teaching tool.
Should I Use Power Assertion As a Parent?
Here’s what I’m going to tell you – at the tender age of almost 40, I often think back to my childhood when my parents spanked my brother and I, and they signed the school permission slip giving permission to the principal to spank us if we needed it.
Guess who never needed to be spanked at school, and guess who was rarely spanked at home? We were grounded for misbehaving from time to time (like the time I skipped school during my sophomore year and got into a convertible with 5 other teens and drove across the state from the Gulf Coast to Daytona Beach for the day…worth every week of grounding).
The stories I hear from my educator friends and family members – the sheer number of kids who need to be chased down on a daily basis, the fact that these adults are spit on, hit, kicked, have things thrown at them – are disgusting.
That didn’t happen when I was in school. Sure, there were kids who disobeyed the teacher, but they were immediately disciplined. The worst kids in my schools growing up were annoyingly distracting and ‘class clown’ kids who did stupid things – but they didn’t disrespect adults.
Do with that what you will. My husband and I don’t spank our kids, none of them have been grounded. I’m a yeller. My husband is not. But, if you want my opinion (and you wouldn’t be here if you did not), there are plenty of kids who could probably use one good spanking and their behavior would change dramatically.
Kids only do what they know they’re getting away with – and no one is allowed to discipline kids any longer, so they’re turning into a**h***s. I said what I said.
Using Power Assertion Correctly Can Help
There is nothing wrong with power assertion if you do it correctly. Love withdrawal should never be used. Nothing good will ever come from withholding love from a person simply because you don’t like their behavior. Withhold dessert or a fun event, but love? That’s low, tacky, and classless.
Spanking? Yeah, that’s up to you. We don’t subscribe to spanking, but we also have four really great kids whose behavior doesn’t warrant it. I’ve seen a few kids who could probably benefit from it, though. Grounding?
Yes! Ground your children when it’s warranted. It’s a consequence. There’s nothing wrong with grounding someone for breaking the rules they knew not to break.
According to The Legacy Consulting Institute, power assertion can result in kids who tend to follow the rules better, but they can be more aggressive and have poor self-regulation. I respectfully disagree. Discipline with firmness and no-nonsense is key. Parents who love their kids and do not abuse them can discipline their kids without worrying.
When you combine power assertion – because you are the parent and the person in charge of your children – with induction, you’ll see some positive results. Here’s what I mean. If you use power assertion to ground your child, make sure you’re also including induction by explaining why you’re grounding your child. Let’s say your child skipped school and did what I did.
Not only is this against the rules (we don’t skip school), but it is so dangerous. In hindsight, we didn’t have cell phones then. Had something bad happened, my parents didn’t know where I was, who I was with, or where to start looking for me. It was reckless and stupid. My punishment was on par, and the discussion my parents and I had was productive.
Do Not Abuse Power Assertion
The moral of the story is that power assertion can be a useful tool. However, the key to using power assertion well is to avoid abusing it. There are times, in fact, when power assertion is going to be the only way to handle a situation.
For example, you don’t want to hit your kids. Got it. Again, we don’t hit our kids. However, if my child was reaching their hand into a body of water in which I see a venomous snake or an alligator approaching, I would act before I could think.
Smacking their hand out of the way, shoving them away, body checking them, throwing them as far as I could…I don’t know what I’d do to keep them safe from imminent danger, but I would not hesitate to use power assertion or force in that situation.
Power assertion is sometimes necessary to keep a child safe from harm, imminent danger, injury, or even death. It’s being sure you don’t abuse that situation that keeps it working in your favor. When you use power assertion all the time as your go-to method of control, you’re very likely going to end up with a child who has some emotional damage.
Use it correctly, however, and your kids will learn valuable lessons, become well-behaved, and learn from their mistakes. You are the parent. And you are the controller of the situations in your home, but you are not God.
You are not a dictator, and your way is not always the right way. Again, I said what I said. Learn to control your own emotions, parent in an authoritative manner, and use your power assertion correctly – and never, ever, ever withhold love from your child. That’s monstrous.
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